The Widow Harun
The Raurin Sheikdom is one of the nine realms of The Tuigan Empire and one of only three not ruled by The Golden Family. Rather, this vast desert realm is the domain of one of the only surviving Loyal Noyan of Jebe Khan, the ancient but energetic Sheik Ar-Rabi.
The Sheikdom includes all the land of The Raurin Desert and The Plains of Purple Dust with the exception of Solon, which belongs to Ulgarth. This is the destroyed heartland of old Imaskar and until recently one of the most lethal places on the surface of Faerun. Conditions there circa 1373 DR are amply and horrifyingly detailed in the Forgotten Realms supplements.
The people of this land are a mixed lot. The indigenous Imaskari are long gone. Few Tuigan range this far south, though their numbers are increasing since the new oases have been established. The nomads loyal to the Sheik are the descendants of ancient Durpari tribes who moved north into the area centuries after the fall of Imaskar. The people of the oases, by contrast, are mostly Mulan or Semphari. Today, all such people mingle freely, joined by Shaaran ordus in the west and a few Shou settlements on the eastern marches.
In the time of Yamun Khahan, the Sheik was an ambitious desert bandit in his early twenties, lord of The Grinning Skull Oasis in the northern reaches of The Plains of Purple Dust, south of Murghom. His band, the Desert Wind, made a living raiding the southern communities of Murghom. His ambitions at that time were modest, but when the whole region was destabilized by the brief Tuigan conquest of and expulsion from Semphar, he stepped up his operations, becoming a prominent warlord and a major threat to loosely organized Murghom.
Then in 1399, Jebe Khan annexed Raurin, and the twin deserts became the newest territory of The Tuigan Empire. During The Demonwar he had spent some time in the desert, living as a hermit while training for the fight with the last of the demons below the dam. The area had remained largely unchanged since the time of Yamun Khahan, but Jebe Khan had plans for a string of oases and a caravan road. The Sheik was introduced to the Khan in 1400. By this time, Ar-Rabi was lord of Zindalankh and three smaller desert communities to the southeast called Khuld, Fars and Darrabhal. By taking Zindalankh he was able to make a profitable alliance with the pirates of The Gbor Nor. He was financing his men by repeatedly sacking the seaside communities of Murghom and raiding up The Rauthenflow. The Sheik submitted to the Khan. All of Raurin was made a realm of the empire, the Sheik its ruler and a Loyal Noyan of Jebe Khan.
From 1400 to his death in 1417 Jebe Khan worked closely with Sheik Ar-Rabi on a plan to transform the twin deserts. Tribes of Giants and many Dragons loyal to Jebe Khan by then were asked to relocate to Raurin, where they eventually destroyed the worst of the roaming monsters. The caravan road was laid out from Zindalankh to Sourmpar in Thommar. Oases were created two days’ travel apart, with springs (and soon, rivers) fed by Decanters of Endless Water. A northern spur of the caravan route was laid all the way to the valley of Solon where, although the city was buried by a lava flow since 1373, the surrounding highlands were suitable for nomad herding. Solon soon became a tent city similar to, but smaller than, the one at Rurikan.
None of this would have been successful without a way to soften the savage weather and ancient Imaskari curses of the place. Key to this strategy was the gulag that came to be known as The Camps of the Godslaves. The first arrivals were the Druids of Unther (captured when the Tuigan overran The Green Lands in 1399), but soon clerics of all faiths were being sent from every corner of the Empire. When Tuigan forces overran a city, the only lives spared were typically those of skilled craftsmen and magic users. Clerics were dragged from their temples and sent to the Camps, where they served ten-year sentences. During this time they were put to work using their powers to reverse desertification and halt the spread of Raurin. Jebe Khan was dead by the time the desert had begun to retreat, but long before then, certain local areas in the interior were noticeably less hostile to life. Today, the twin deserts are no more dangerous than Anauroch; there are both permanent residents (the Tuigan ordus who now run goats and camels there) and traders moving across the region (via the caravan road and its oases).
So things remained until the Mulhorandi civil war over succession in 1419. The Sheik, by then having completely destabilized Murghom, sent fighters to the young Ilderim in an effort to curry favor. This effort was successful, and the Sheik was integral to the success of the campaigns in 1420 and 1421, in which Ilderim and Ogedei jointly conquered Murghom and Semphar. These campaigns resulted in profitable friendships for the Sheik but one significant reversal. In 1423 the ambitious Mongke, disdaining the desert nomads that occupied the area, sent Ulgarthan forces north into Raurin and seized the valley of Solon. The Sheik pleaded his case to Kublai, but the Great khan would not overrule his nephew in favor of a foreigner. Solon became a part of the realm of Ulgarth.
Today the Sheik relies heavily on the protection of his friendship with Ilderim, since the ambitious Mongke poses a significant threat to the Raurin Sheikdom from his adjacent possessions of Durpar, Solon and Ulgarth.
The Camps of the Godslaves are supported by all of The Golden Family, but in addition to this gulag, there is little in Raurin to support the Sheik. Profits from the caravan road are modest but reliable, and every four years there is a great influx of foreign travelers for the running of The Raurin Rally, the legendary (and lethal) long-distance horse race of the east. The only other draw here is the numerous Imaskari ruins that lie scattered across the landscape, including vast complexes like The Palace of the Purple Emperor on the site of buried Inupras, and many smaller fortresses and sites. Excavators and adventurers from everywhere, including The Western Realms, can be found at such places, though the Sheik has prior right to anything they unearth. This is enforced by ensuring that every digger is assigned an escort and minder loyal to the Sheik. These ‘guides’, who by law must accompany any foreigner anywhere within Raurin, are another small source of revenue for the Sheik’s men. Therefore this Realm is by far the poorest of any in The Tuigan Empire and easily menaced by wealthier neighbors; the Sheik fears that the realm may pass to The Golden Family in the future if his own sons are unable to defend it from Mongke.
The twin deserts are described in much more detail in the Forgotten Realms core books and supplements. Please consult these if you wish to learn more.